By Tim Montgomerie
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Last week in Birmingham I presented a ten step plan to deliver the first Conservative majority since 1992. The plan is summarised on the new StrongAndCompassionate.com website. For the next five weekdays, starting today, I plan to publish two of the steps and would be grateful for your feedback.
Most Conservatives don’t need persuading that a majority Conservative government is preferable to continuing coalition. Some more liberal Tories and many floating voters aren’t so sure however. The liberal Tories worry about being held hostage by certain obsessive Tory backbenchers. Many floating voters believe that the Liberal Democrats are the reason why the Coalition government hasn’t privatised the NHS, has increased the basic pension, has increased some taxes on the wealthy and hasn’t more generally ordered a massacre of the first born. The strongest argument that Liberal Democrats will make at the next election will be that they will humanise and moderate the Conservatives in the event of another hung parliament while, alternatively, they would force Labour to take the deficit and civil liberties more seriously.
In arguing for a majority we need to address this danger. We need to avoid any suggestion that we are returning to a narrow range of obsessions. While large majorities of voters support stronger immigration controls, for example, and tough work requirements for benefit claimants and longer jail sentences for serious offenders, these are far from the only things that those majorities want. Most voters also want protection of what we might call Britain’s social contract. They believe in the NHS. They believe in a safety-net. They don’t want a sink-or-swim libertarian society. And most of all, of course, they want a government focused on the economy, particularly the cost of living and the creation of jobs.
Our best argument for a majority government may not just lie in our specific promises to fix the economy, rebalance our relationship with Europe or finish Michael Gove’s schools reform programme. They might also focus on the inherent weakness of coalition government at a time when the country needs far-reaching and bold reforms. The Liberal Democrats’ constant attacks on their Coalition partners have actually undermined their long-term goal of reducing the British public’s suspicion of indecisive election outcomes. The broken promises and squabbling that voters have witnessed since the formation of the Cameron-Clegg alliance mean that under a quarter of voters now see coalition government as their ideal model. Voters now see one party government as preferable because it’s easier to hold politicians accountable for their manifesto promises and there’s more clarity of mission.